Queens College Maestro Maurice Peress Conducts Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks to Mark 90th Anniversary of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue


–All-Star Lineup Will Recreate Historic Concert on Wednesday, February 12 at Manhattan’s Town Hall, Just Steps From the Original Venue–

FLUSHING, NY, February 3, 2014 Playing to a sold-out Aeolian Hall on February 12, 1924, violinist-conductor Paul Whiteman led his dance band in a program of popular and jazz repertoire. His “Experiment in Modern Music” culminated in the premiere of a piece commissioned for the occasion: Rhapsody in Blue, featuring its composer, George Gershwin, at the piano.

Now, exactly 90 years later, internationally-known conductor Maurice Peress, professor at the Queens College Aaron Copland School of Music, is teaming up with the Grammy Award-winning Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks to reprise that legendary performance.

The commemorative concert, taking place on Wednesday, February 12, at 8 pm at The Town Hall (123 West 43rd Street, Manhattan), will faithfully replicate the original, which mixed novelties such as “Livery Stable Blues,” with its mock horse whinnies and chicken squawks, and standards by Irving Berlin, Victor Herbert, and Jerome Kern. Virtuosos from the 22-piece Nighthawks—augmented for this date by guest artists—will recreate individual solos from vintage recordings. Jazz pianist Jeb Patton will channel keyboard wizard Zez Confrey, composer of “Dizzy Fingers,” while Andy Stein, known for his work on “A Prairie Home Companion,” will cover Whiteman’s role on violin. Ted Rosenthal, a winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition who teaches at the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, will be a featured soloist.

“With his Rhapsody in Blue for solo piano and jazz band, Gershwin took a giant step for American music,” notes Peress, who immersed himself in musical archives to prepare for this event. “It is indisputably the first American orchestral work shaped from blues and ragtime that crossed over and found a welcome place in the standard orchestral repertoire.”

“The original performance of Rhapsody in Blue established George Gershwin as one of the truly unique voices in American music, and solidified Paul Whiteman’s reputation as America’s leading bandleader,” adds Giordano, a specialist in period jazz. “By recreating this historic event, we honor Whiteman and Gershwin, and commemorate the 90th anniversary of the piece and the event that changed music forever.” 

Tickets for this concert cost $25 to $40 and are available at www.ticketmaster.com and in person at The Town Hall’s box office.

About the Aaron Copland School of Music                                                                         

Established in 1981, the Aaron Copland School of Music (ACSM) has over 500 music students enrolled in seven undergraduate and graduate degree programs. It offers a range of courses that prepares its graduates for a variety of careers in music, including performance, teaching and composition. The school also maintains a vital presence in the cultural life of Queens and the greater NY metropolitan area by annually offering over 200 public concerts and recitals in the Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Concert Hall, as well as specialized programs and courses for senior citizens. In addition, its Lawrence Eisman Center for Preparatory Studies in Music, a pre-college program, serves up to 400 elementary and secondary students each year.  There is also a college-community choir, the Queens College Choral Society, which presents major choral works each semester.  In cooperation with the Department of Drama, Theatre, and Dance, the school offers opera and musical theatre productions. Most of these events are free and all are open to the public. ACSM also hosts six summer workshops and seminars that offer essential skills in early music (voice and instrument), conducting, composition and theory for high school and college students as well as professional musicians. For more information on the Aaron Copland School of Music, please visit http://qcpages.qc.cuny.edu/music/

For more about Queens College visit http://www.qc.cuny.edu/Pages/default.aspx

Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services